An abusive multi-year detention and several high profile “closed-door” sessions later, the defense of whistleblower Pfc Bradley Manning came down to a few short days, starting on Monday and resting earlier today.
The points were short but important, as the defense sought to reveal the prosecutions’ allegations of Manning “aiding the enemy” as unwarranted overreach for what amounted to leaking data to the press, with Harvard Prof. Yochai Benkler testifying that even the military agreed with assessments of WikiLeaks as a “journalistic organization” in reports leading up to Manning’s leaks, and the government only changed their tune on the matter after the leaks started causing them embarrassment. He also called WikiLeaks’ decentralized approach a “highpoint” for modern journalism.
Of course the US government doesn’t have the authority to decide who is and isn’t “real” journalists, and the military’s assessment underscores exactly why that is, that the definition can radically change when it becomes convenient.
Prof. Benkler’s testimony also made another important point, noting that while the Pentagon report said it was conceivably possible that an “enemy” could use WikiLeaks to gather information there was no evidence that they had ever actually done so.
Previous testimony also supported this assessment, including a sworn statement from the CALL at Fort Leavenworth that there had been no changes to tactics or training as a result of the WikiLeaks disclosure, underscoring the defense’s argument that the leaks may have caused embarrassment to officials, but no real harm to national security.